The Kingdom of Eswatini entered its sixth day of the Partial Lockdown initiated to halt the spread of the coronavirus. With 850 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 41000 deaths globally, this virus is proving to be among the biggest health challenges the world has faced in many years. This is a highly contagious virus that has the tendency to spread like wildfire across communities and countries.
Eswatini remains with nine confirmed COVID-19 cases, and at high risk and high alert. The Kingdom is currently under a status of National Emergency. The decision to activate a partial lockdown was crucial in flattening the curve and ensuring that the number of infected does not balloon to over burden our already strained health system. The past six days has been a period of many lessons with false starts and uncertainty is some instance as EmaSwati adapted to a change of lifestyle never experienced before.
I take this opportunity to thank all citizens who have heeded to the call to stop unnecessary travel and stay at home in adherence to the partial lockdown measures.
Experience from other countries has taught us that there is no better intervention to restrain the spread of the virus than to keep it contained in one place instead of spreading from community to community.
The virus does not move in itself but people move it and thus spread the risk of infecting others. The partial lockdown allows us to travel only for food supplies, medication, and for the workers in essential services. All other travel remains strictly prohibited.
May I take this opportunity to appreciate His Majesty King Mswati III and Ingwenyama for his incisive leadership and direction at this challenging time, and for calling for a National Day of Prayer which was successfully held on Sunday 29 March 2020. Thousands of EmaSwati, in and out of the country, joined the prayer through broadcast channels and Government social media platforms. As a nation we have no doubt that through prayer all things are possible.
My appreciation also goes to the Deputy Prime Minister for the role he has played in effectively leading the National Emergency response. The National Emergency Task teams, Regional and Sectorial Committees have accepted this responsibility with speed and commitment since the National Emergency was declared.
Government continues to pursue all avenues that will lessen the negative effects of this partial lockdown on the pockets of the populace. To cushion EmaSwati from the economic impact of this period and the devasting effects of the coronavirus, Government has made several interventions. These include:
- The Central Bank has reduced the discount rate by 100 basis points. This reduces the cost of debt by 1%.
- Government has reduced the price of fuel with effect from midnight 2 April 2020.
- The increase in the price of electricity has been suspended for two months.
- The renewal of motor vehicles registration has been extended without attracting penalties to the 29th May.
- Taxpayers projecting losses are expected to file loss provisional returns and no payment will be required.
- Government is engaging the transport sector with a view to assist with a small subsidy to ensure the industry to continue transporting workers in essential services and citizens embarking on essential travel.
We are thankful to the cooperation we are getting from the transport industry in this difficult period for them and business as a whole. Government further appreciates law enforcement agencies for ensuring that the public complies with the partial lockdown measures.
May I emphasize the importance of allowing only essential travel and essential businesses to operate. We are cognisant of the massive economic impact that this partial lockdown will have on business. This decision was not taken lightly. We are called upon to prioritise the health of our people at all times. No one will work in these businesses if EmaSwati would succumb to this virus. The lives of all EmaSwati matters and cannot be compromised. We therefore plead for patience and understanding as we traverse together through this difficult path and challenging times for our economy and country.
It has been observed that while the virus does not generally discriminate in terms of age, it has the tendency to substantially affect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Therefore, it is important for Government to protect our elderly from being exposed to this virus especially in the issuance of the elderly grant where large numbers of people gather at one time. Government has taken the decision to pay all elderly grants electronically with immediate effect. This is done in collaboration with Eswatini Post and Telecommunication Corporation, MTN Eswatini and Eswatini Mobile. The distribution of grants is going well so far. The elderly are very appreciative of this initiative and clearly this is a significant step forward towards Vision 2022.
Government has also approved a preliminary costed procurement plan for the COVID-19 Eswatini National Emergency Response after wide consultation with stakeholders. The Resource Mobilization team has been able to raise E18 million towards the COVID-19 Response. This would not have come at a better time as financial resources are urgently needed to procure more health equipment and material so desperately needed to effectively manage the spread of the virus. An assessment of the overall amount of financial resources required to fight this pandemic is underway and the public will be informed. To this end, Government fully appreciates the generosity of all our international friends and local companies that have already donated towards the response.
To cope with the demands of halting the spread of coronavirus, Government has recruited several health personnel. They include eight doctors, 145 nurses, environmental health specialists, paramedics, orderlies and others. A total of 1,007 nurses from all levels, 147 medical doctors and over 3,000 rural health motivators have been trained on COVID-19. Training is an important element in the fight against the virus and will be an ongoing exercise. Our rural health motivators are crucial in reaching out to communities and helping with the required information to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Forty water tanks with a capacity of 5000 litres each have been procured and distributed to various communities in the country to provide running water to wash hands.
The priority has been rural areas which are experiencing water shortages. We are aware this is not enough and Government continues with the programme to bring clean water closer to all EmaSwati.
Government is in contact with EmaSwati in high risk countries ensuring their wellbeing and safety at this time.
This pandemic continues to test our resolve as a nation and we have the opportunity to leverage on its effects to uplift our communities. Once again let us be all vigilant and follow all the partial lockdown measures and health precautions as provided by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. The public is advised to rejects myths and conspirancy theories that seem to dominate the social media platforms.
As we observe the partial lockdown and restrict unnecessary movement and stay at home, let us remember to follow the precautionary guidelines as provided by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. These include:
- Our home environment should be kept clean and safe and all high touch surfaces must be disinfected regularly.
- Wash hands regularly with running water and soap. Help the young to also appropriately wash hands. In the absence of water and soap, the public is advised to use sanitizers.
- Stop shaking hands and use other non touch methods of greeting.
- Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from each other.
- Avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes) and cover coughs and sneezes.
- Take care of the vulnerable, especially senior citizens and those with underlying respiratory conditions who are more susceptible to the coronavirus infection.
- If you experience flu like symptoms (fever, difficulty breathing, cough, high temperature) visit your nearest health centre facility or call the Emergency Medical Services Toll free line 977.
The message is clear, stay at home and save yourself, family, community and the country.
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